Housing costs, low-paying jobs create challenging equation for Nanaimo families

By Ian Holmes
May 18, 2017 - 6:03pm

Nanaimo families are facing a tough equation of high housing costs and low-paying jobs.Living Wage for Families Campaign

NANAIMO — It likely comes as no surprise, but new data shows Nanaimo is a challenging place for families to make ends meet.

The Living Wage for Families Campaign co-produced a report for several B.C. communities which shows a living wage for a Nanaimo family is $17.55 an hour for two parents with two kids working full-time.

That's in comparison to a $17.99 living wage in 2015, according to organizer Deanna Ogle, who noted the implementation of the federal child benefit credit has helped.

She said the living wage movement is designed to make an impact in two primary ways.

“(To) advocate for policies that can help families make ends meet...on the part of our municipal, provincial and federal governments,” Ogle said. “The second way is to advocate for employers to sign on to pay all of their direct and contract staff a living wage.”

Ogle said a living wage is what a family needs to earn to cover basic expenses like housing, food, clothing, shelter, transportation and child care.

City of Nanaimo social planner John Horn said a living wage strategy is one of the most effective tools to address the issue of child poverty. He said local efforts to either lower the number or increase wages haven't moved as quickly as he had hoped over the last three years.

“I'm hoping that going forward we'll be animating this conversation a bit more among the community, specifically looking at bringing it to the attention of employers in our economy and seeing how they might respond to that idea.”

Horn said the cost of housing and the type of jobs available are two key factors creating a challenging equation for Nanaimo families.

“It's no longer a question if you don't have a living wage whether the quality of your life is lessened, now it's becoming a much starker reality that if you don't earn enough it's going to be really difficult to find a place to live in our community.”

Horn said lobbying local employers to bring wages up will be an “uphill battle” because Nanaimo has a high number of retail and food service jobs.

“It's not quite as easy as it looks or sounds for the smaller businesses to make those changes and survive and it's not as easy for these larger national chain stores to have any control over what the wages are.”

More affordable housing and cheaper childcare are two major things that can have a direct impact in lowering the living wage, Horn said.

-with files from Dominic Abassi


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